Ridley Scott told those criticizing the historical inaccuracies in NAPOLEON to Get a life KossyDerrickBlog KossyDerrickEnt


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Monday, November 6, 2023

Ridley Scott told those criticizing the historical inaccuracies in NAPOLEON to Get a life

Ridley Scott reacts to those criticizing the historical inaccuracies in ‘NAPOLEON’.

“Get a life.”

The movie is set to depict both the Battle of Toulon and the Battle of Austerlitz, and both sequences are brought to life, the director reveals, through some impressive practical means. Of the former battle, Scott says: “It’s all real. I think you feel when it’s fake. You know it’s somehow artificial. All of this is real. We shot this in Malta." The latter battle, however, does feature some VFX shots front and center.

He was already making mistakes. Underestimating his enemies’ capabilities and overestimating his own, he assumed that the woods behind the British would block their retreat, but Wellington had strategically used the forest to hide more soldiers. An overnight downpour had left the fields soggy, and Napoleon, instead of striking at nine, as he had planned, held off until midday, giving the Prussians crucial time to reach Wellington as backup. Napoleon was tired. He was ill. He was strangely apathetic, declining to survey parts of the battlefield himself. Michael Broers, a Napoleon scholar at Oxford, told me, “The real question isn’t so much Why did he lose? but How on earth did he ever think he could win?”

In 2020, Broers was grading a student’s essay when he got a call from an assistant in Ridley Scott’s office, explaining that the director was planning an epic film about Napoleon, starring Joaquin Phoenix. Summoned to Scott’s headquarters, in London—crammed with movie props, it reminded Broers of Aladdin’s cave—the professor advised Scott on everything from the motivations of Empress Josephine to whether Napoleon was left-handed. (He wasn’t.) Scott was particularly interested in battles, from both a practical and a psychological perspective. “He saw at eye level,” Broers recalled. “His Waterloo was like a diorama.” At one point, Broers drew him a map, and the director studied it like a hardened general preparing for battle—which, in a way, he was. “He’s not un-Napoleonic himself,” Broers said. “When he’s there, he’s in charge, and you have complete confidence in him. He dishes it out, and he can take it.”

Scott, who has filmed and fought more than his share of battles, will turn eighty-six this month, a week after the release of “Napoleon,” his twenty-eighth film. His movies have tackled other Great Men of History (Moses, Columbus), as well as aliens, androids, con men, gangsters, goblins, soldiers, serial killers, and the Gucci family. 

Scott's latest comments about his Napoleon battle sequences are certainly a promising sign for the movie, with the filmmaker renowned for his ability to bring epic, large-scale battles to life. It was 2000's Gladiator, Scott's sword-and-sandal flick starring Russell Crowe, that first firmly established his battle scene proficiency. While many of Gladiator's battle sequences take place in Roman coliseums between smaller groups of opponents, the film opens with a standout clash between Roman forces and the barbarian horde.

Scott regards his œuvre with pugnacious pride, especially his less loved films, such as the 2013 crime thriller “The Counselor,” which he maintains was the victim of bad marketing. (“They fucked it up.”) When a movie fails, I asked, does he question his instincts? “No,” he grunted. “I blast the shit out of a tennis ball.” Beside him was Pauline Kael’s four-page evisceration of “Blade Runner,” which ran in this magazine in 1982 and contains, among other gibes, the line “Scott seems to be trapped in his own alleyways, without a map.” Scott had the review framed for his office wall years ago and had asked an assistant to lay it on the table for me; I got the sense that he had agreed to a New Yorker Profile in order to have the last laugh.

Researching the script, Scarpa began noticing similarities between director and subject. “Seeing Napoleon and Ridley side by side, I think that there are people who simply don’t have that internal sense of limitation that normal people have,” he said. “I remember reading about how one time Napoleon was finishing up a battle, and he was simultaneously designing the currency.”

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